Article reprinted v permission and also originally showed up in the February problem of the NYMC Bulletin -

“It’s Elemental” is a series of columns by invoice Shelton written this in year in recognition of the joined Nations’ global Year of the routine Table of chemistry Elements.

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We all know oxygen, silicon, and aluminum are common facets in the earth crust. They are additionally the three most common but in terms of the number of minerals the contain them, we find a somewhat various accounting. Oxygen is the most countless in the variety of species, silicon is 3rd and aluminum is seventh. They all have an ext than 1,000 known species which is likewise the situation for five other elements. (Those other elements are hydrogen, calcium, iron, sulfur and also sodium.)

These facets can take place in an uncombined state. Oxygen is current as an essential component that our setting (about 21%). We cannot think about it as a mineral however, due to the fact that it is a gas; minerals are characterized as solids. Silicon has a visibility in the earth crust as a native aspect just as we discover in the perform of Back, 2018. One unusual ar where we view this is in fulgarites that form when lightning strikes the earth surface. Aluminum, probably surprising us, wake up in two elemental forms – one we call aluminum when the other is referred to as steinhardtite. (Dr. Paul Steinhardt lectured to the NYMC in January 2014 about quasicrystals.) I would readily take into consideration the native facets for silicon and aluminum as greatly limited in occurrence; specimens are greatly very tiny and most likely of small interest to many mineral collectors.


The combined occurrences because that these three facets are really well known. Oxygen and silicon alone develop quartz, opal and also a organize of varietals favor agate and jasper. The necessary materials for every one of these species are the same. Their extensive presence, and interest to collectors, provides them necessary to us. Much less attention is provided for tridymite and coesite who also share identical chemistry. If one or two other facets are included, there are many much more possible species.

Oxygen and also aluminum produce the species corundum which consists of the varieties ruby and sapphire. The is very important together a gem material and also will be most likely to be existing in a huge number of mineral and/or gem collections. Diaspore come close yet requires hydrogen through the various other elements noted here. Adding another aspect or 2 greatly expands the number of possible types as we see v diaspore.


For all 3 together, we find the mineral kyanite. This is really popular among collectors especially as glowing blue crystalline examples. The sometimes gem usage appears to it is in quite minimal but the really best faceted stones are quite appealing. Sillimanite and also andalusite belong here yet seem to it is in less typical in some collections. All three types can be supplied to indicate the level of metamorphism in rocks.

If we add one or two an ext elements, we have the bulk of the rock-forming minerals. Feldspars, micas, pyroxenes, amphiboles and also so forth are composed mainly of oxygen, silicon, aluminum and one or two much more elements. We see, therefore, that regardless of the an extremely common presence of these aspects in mineral species, there space really very few examples made up of just these three elements. Perhaps this is no what friend would have guessed. Once you look in ~ lists for say, aluminum species, you uncover the miscellaneous combinations listed in nature above 1,000.

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A ar committed to geology, mineralogy,lapidary and also allied planet sciences, the Tucson Gem and also Mineral Society, Inc. Is a non-profit organization, established in 1946 through a little group interested in mineral knowledge and appreciation.